Oh My, A Fry High

French Fries 01

I understand the drug addict, because I just experienced the high.  After a long time away from my drug of choice I recently had a relapse.  I succumbed in a moment of weakness and found myself meeting my supplier.  Money changed hands and I was handed a paper bag with the stuff inside.  I couldn’t even get out of the parking lot where the exchange took place without taking a hit.  And it felt stupendous as the stuff lit up the pleasure centers of my brain like nothing else.  But then the high wore off and I felt weak and like a failure.  Wait  – what did you think I was talking about?  Drugs?  Oh, no no. no.  I am talking about McDonalds french fries.

I love a good french fry.  To begin with, this Irishman loves his potatoes.  And, of course, anything deep fried is almost always better than something that is not.  But the one who came up with the combination of the humble potato, a vat of hot oil and a salt shaker with really big holes in the lid had a stroke of brilliance.  The origins of the “french fry” (which is no more French than I am) is a mystery for another day.  Let us restrict today’s subject to one of the better practitioners of the art.

Who makes the best fries?  There’s a loaded question.  Are we talking about “best” in terms of when they come out the way the test kitchens envisioned?  Or “best” in terms of what you typically get more often than not when you order them?  Because there’s a difference.

The late, great Wendy’s french fry was a marvel.  When it was right it was thick, hot, crispy, salty and about perfect.  But there were few fast food french fries that had a shorter half-life than those from Wendy’s, so that I seemed to get the as-designed version maybe only 30% of the time.  They re-engineered their fries a number of years ago to a variety that ages better but lacks the punch of the original when it was at its best.

Those I get from Culver’s (a regional chain out of Wisconsin) are usually quite good, using the fast-disappearing crinkle-cut and generally coming out hot and crispy.  Don’t ask me about Burger King, as they seem to have re-done their fries so often I have lost track of what they’re like now.

Maybe it is too many experiences with substandard french fries that has caused my habit of eating my fries first.  Because there is nothing that ages so poorly as a french fry.  A burger can sit for a half hour and I can still appreciate it.  But let a french fry sit for ten minutes and it is dead to me.  The only antidote is to dig in quickly and enjoy them in an uninterrupted FryFest until they are gone, at which time the rest of the meal awaits.

There are lots of ways that places can screw up french fries so that eating them first doesn’t really help.  Even MickyD can get them wrong, usually by undercooking them so that they come out all limp and oily, and kind of translucent.  Yuck.  But you have to love a well oiled (sorry) system as is the norm at the Big M because their fries are usually quite good.  OK, as long as they are fresh and you don’t get the last ones in the tray that have been sitting there for fifteen minutes.  I have experienced bad fries at McD much less frequently than at other places.

[Tangent alert – you will notice that the the word ketchup (or any facsimile thereto) has not been used in the writing of this blog post.  Well until now, anyway.  French fries are properly enjoyed with salt.  Nothing else.  You ketchup people won’t understand any of this because, well, just because.  End tangent.]

But the really great examples do not come often enough.  I can still remember the time several years ago when I stopped at a McDonalds drive-thru along a desolate stretch of a rural 2-lane highway.  I was heading for a court appearance in a county far to the north of me and came upon this place at the right time.  Have you ever enjoyed the perfect fast food experience?  One like the people who produce the commercials get on film only after probably a dozen takes and lots of yelling?  Well I got it that day.

It started with a friendly voice coming clearly through the speaker.  The staff was cheerful, the service was quick and the food was perfect.  Did I say perfect?  Why yes I did.  The most perfect part of that perfect experience?  The french fries.  They were so hot I could almost not eat them.  They were the perfect combination of temperature, crispiness, saltiness, and with lots of the best parts of the potato.  By which I mean lots of long fries and not the gobs of little 1 inch fries that sometimes fill the bottom of the serving container. Anyway, on that day the skies parted, the Angels sang and I ate the most perfect french fries of my life.   

But back to my recent experience.  I think I broke a record, as it had probably been six months since a McDonalds fry had passed my lips.  Seriously, I don’t believe this has happened since perhaps the age of 7.  It didn’t help that for many years a well-run example of The Golden Arches was the closest fast food place to my office, so – yeah.

But since the onset of a pandemic we have prepared almost all of our food at home, without a single french fry during that time because I know how hard it would be to make the kind of fry I would find acceptable, so I will not bother with the attempt.

Until that one day a week or so ago when I was pressed for time and my friendly neighborhood McD kindly offered to solve my hunger situation.  I got one of those combos that groups one of their quite average burgers with a pouch of fries.  I will not argue that the burgers from Ronald’s place are anything great, but they are consistent and will satisfy in a pinch.  But it would have to wait until the fries were gone.

I was fortunate that in my backslide I got a little red paper pouch of fries that were Oh, so right.  They were hot.  They were crispy.  They were golden.  And they were salty.  Oh my, were they salty.  They were the kind of salty that make you pucker as you eat a gob of them, as that saltiness hits you like a slap in the face.  I love them like that.  Oh crap, I just remembered that my doctor reads this occasionally.  Maybe we can just sneak on past this part so that I won’t hear about it on my upcoming physical.

Were my fries so perfect because they were as good as that day on the deserted highway years ago?  Or because they were the first I had enjoyed in months and months?  I am not prepared to say.  But when a guy is in the middle of a FryHigh it just doesn’t matter.

After I started wrting this I found myself in that drive-through again, and ordered the same thing.  They were not quite as good but I didn’t care.  Like the movie of the same name, they were Gone In Sixty Seconds.  I think there is only one real solution:  “Hi, my name is JP and I have a problem with french fries.”

Image Credit:

Free image from Pikrepo.com

34 thoughts on “Oh My, A Fry High

    • I used to know a guy who dipped his fries in mustard. I don’t like fries in ketchup, but I understand it. I don’t understand mustard.

      The pepper is interesting – I put pepper on almost everything else, but have never done so with fries. And I’m too far along to start now. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Try the fries from Freddie’s when you get a chance. Thinner in all dimensions, they are, to me anyway, better than those from the Golden Arches and keep their essence well beyond the typical 3.2 minutes. I have eaten only fries during stops there and I am not a fry guy.

    Like fries, some ketchups are better than others. However, I have encountered a few people who did their fries in mayonnaise. That is the embodiment of nasty.

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    • I have never been to a Freddie’s. I had developed the idea that it’s basically a Steak n Shake knockoff, but given the recent trouble of our hometown favorite I should branch out. And maybe they are more consistently good. Now I want to go to Freddie’s.

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  2. McDonalds uses a beef flavoring in their fries that give them phenomenal taste. I haven’t been to the local branch in quite a while. That may change soon.

    Maybe it’s nostalgia, but I find Penguin Point’s crinkle-cuts to be a consistent favorite. I occasionally stop at the last remaining outlet in Fort Wayne when I’m up there, but The Marion store is much closer for a random craving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have not had a PP order of fries in decades. Or anything else from The Point either, for that matter. I suppose Marion is the closest one to me as well.

      I am not sure when they changed, but at one time McDonalds used beef tallow for frying oil. I think they cut that out some time in the 80s, if not before. I know some folks say they have never been as good since. I wish I could go back and try some of the old ones as a comparison. It doesn’t surprise me that they added some flavoring to compensate.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, so much to unpack here. I too love me some good fries, but I’m not much of a McDonalds fan. Among other issues the portion size is too big, which leaves me feeling bloated, so if I eat there I needs someone to share the fries with me.

    I’m more of a boutique fry person, Spencer’s at the water front used to have an elk burger on the menu that came with delightfully crispy thin fries. Yum.
    https://spencers.ca/

    And fries with mayonnaise! When I was working at the aluminum smelter in Missouri there was a young lady known as Little Debbie who worked in the construction trailer. One day I came in there and she was talking to a German guy from KHD and she says to me “Did you know that he puts mayonnaise on his french fries? Ha ha ha” So I said “Yeah, I’m Dutch and we do that too.”
    She stopped laughing and looked so crestfallen that I put on my best Missouri accent and said “Yer surrounded by furriners” Fun times down at the smelter.

    And finally, since you need to eat a balanced diet of podcasts here’s Gladwell’s take on McDonalds fries. You have to know the right dealer to get the really good stuff:
    http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/19-mcdonalds-broke-my-heart

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too large of a portion size? Heresy!

      There is a local bar the we used to go to for their weekly steak dinner special. It was always busy and the fries I ordered every time were perfect almost every time.

      It is not so much that I don’t like the idea of mayo on fries, but that I don’t like the idea of mayo on much of anything. And I didn’t know about the Dutch thing with mayo.

      The podcast sounds fun. And for some reason I had to approve your comment- you must have snuck in on a different device.

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    • Perhaps it’s regional taste preferences? Long ago at a Sonic in Montana I was asked if I wanted white or brown gravy on my French fries.

      Having mentioned Freddie’s, I did not mention their fry sauce – a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise. It’s surprisingly good.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thankfully, there is no mention of Poutine in here. Fries with chees curds and gravy all on the top. Why my sons enjoy it I will never understand. I could never swallow such a combination.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Um, the picture alone made me drool 🙂 I don’t like ketchup on my fries either. I’m a bit of a purist preferring them straight up – no salt or seasoning or anything. Although I did enjoy a good Culvers fry when I lived in the Midwest, my current champion is In-N-Out, a local chain here on the west coast. I especially love watching them make them – they cut the potatoes right there on the spot, dumping them into a big cutter where the fries drop right down into the oil. Now excuse me, I’m off to In-N-Out! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I worked at McDonald’s as a teen but mostly on the quarter-pounder grill. I never worked the fry cooker so I’d be interested to hear from someone who did. McDonald’s was fairly automated even back then so it was hard to screw up the final product. We have two chains out here in the West with solid reputations for their fries: Five Guys and In-and-Out. Haven’t tried Five Guys, and the one time I tried In-and-Out I don’t recall the fries being memorable. Have to concede your conclusion J.P: if I were to choose “best fries” right now I’d still go with the Golden Arches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have Five Guys here. I love their burgers but just tolerate the fries.

      My fast food experience was 3 weeks at a Burger King in 1976 and I never did the fryer either.

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  7. This was a great post JP and I was salivating for an order of fries after reading it. I have not had any fries “out” in a long time, but McDonald’s fries were always my favorite hands down. The crispiness was perfect and I don’t remember ever having a bad fry there. I used to dab on a little ketchup on my fries, but when I got my new AMC Pacer in ’77 with its cream-colored fabric seats, the ketchup had to go when dining in the car. Then I got the Buick Regal in ’88 and with the burgundy velour seats, I realized sadly that salt had to go as it was messy if your hand shook opening that tiny packet of salt while enjoying your burger and fries in the car That left no option but to enjoy French fries in their natural fried goodness. So consider me a purist as to McDonald’s fries. Even though I’m Canadian, I’ve never been a fan of the heavy, often undercooked “chips” sprinkled with vinegar. I guess I didn’t live in Canada long enough to appreciate ’em.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think McDonald’s puts enough salt on for most people that they don’t need more – though that’s not always true for me.

      I have heard it said that if you order fries without salt it’s a way to guarantee a fresh hot batch made just for you, then you can salt them yourself.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You know I think I’ve heard that before – salt on fresh fries at your own discretion – yum! We had a McDonald’s by our office for years too and you’d step into the elevator after someone just rode up with lunch from the Golden Arches and you’d have an instant hunger pang.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Dave and you (and JP as he is a lawyer) will appreciate what I did with that Pacer … you know how it looked like a fishbowl on wheels? Well, it was a beige Pacer, and about 4-5 years after I bought it, the seats, which were a cream-colored cloth material with a Southwest woven motif began to tear and fall apart. I took the bus, first to school (college) then to work, both in downtown Detroit. The car admittedly sat out in the sun as my father parked in the garage, but I didn’t feel the seat material should have torn apart since I did not use the car very much. So I took pictures and sent them to AMC and said “the car resembles a fishbowl – why would you use material that would incur sun rot?” They sent a representative from AMC to examine the car and could see from the mileage it was not used very much, they agreed and replaced the seat material for front and back. I am sure I was not the only one who had that problem. It was kind of a cute car, but it sat low on the ground and I had two gas tanks replaced and it fishtailed like crazy and developed an annoying habit of conking out at every stoplight, so we parted ways. Good thing you never followed through with an actual purpose.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know exactly the fabric you are talking about. A friend in law school had a Pacer with that interior style, only in blue. Hers was 7 or 8 years old and the interior was shot in that one too. Even though I like oddball cars, I never warmed to the Pacer, for some reason.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The designer dropped the ball on that seat material fabric didn’t they? That car was horribly hot in Summer and had no A/C. My first car was a Super Beetle (stick shift, but no clutch, so you shifted gears only if you went over 55 mph). It was a lemon from Day #1 and had to be towed to the dealership the day after I got it, as it leaked transmission fluid and rolled down the driveway into the street. It was a brand-new car which my parents bought so I would have a safe ride to school when I started college. After four years my father suggested we trade it in and get an American made car, so we chose the Pacer as it was larger than a Gremlin (thus he reasoned it was safer).

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have to agree that Mcdonald’s fries are the absolute best. Even when they’re not hot and fresh they’re still pretty darn good. I’ve been known to add extra salt sometimes, and occasionally a packet of vinegar, which I believe might be a Canadian thing. I’m horribly hungry now after all your descriptive words and think I must pursue a drug deal of my own the next time I’m near the golden arches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no, I’m being a bad influence again. I have not heard of the vinegar, and as it is something I usually try to avoid, I’ll pass on that combination. I have gotten a real education on the many ways people enjoy their fries.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You have to try the vinegar option. White vinegar, not fish and chips malt vinegar. Just dab a few drops for taste, and add as necessary. Don’t you guys have Lay’s salt and vinegar potato chips in Indiana?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. At this stage of my internal life, a fry’s a thing I must pass by. But back in the day, and I write this without an iota of shame, fries were to me most appreciated as a ketchup delivery system. I do agree McDonald’s are good, but my favorites growing up were purchased at a nearby amusement park. They were fried in Mazola oil (that was evidently a big selling point for some reason)—chunky and crisp and salty as can be—and served in a cone-shaped paper cup.
    The mere reminiscence is activating my salivary glands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t every kind of fried side/snack item better when it’s served in a cone-shaped paper cup?
      I am no connoisseur of frying oil, I just know that a potato chip plant I worked at as a kid used peanut oil, which sounded so exotic to me at the time.

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  10. I remember the fries at the Bluebird Cafe, a family owned restaurant on the Main Street of the resort where we spent our summers when I was young. It’s still in business today, though with new owners, boasting its 83rd season. The potatoes were cut right in the cafe’s kitchen and were served right out of the fryer. They never supplied ketchup, only salt and vinegar. They were the best fries ever! McDonalds fries are pretty good too.

    Liked by 1 person

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